Desktop Products Advance at NAB

Reporter's notebook: PC technologies from Apple, Pinnacle and other companies continued to make inroads at the annual broadcasters' convention.

LAS VEGAS—On the show floor at the National Association of Broadcasters annual confab here this week, video professionals got a chance to see the latest desktop technologies in action.

According to NAB, the show drew 89,000 attendees to the Las Vegas Convention Center for six days of presentations from broadcast-industry heavyweights and a showcase of wares ranging from lighting rigs to miniature airplanes outfitted with remote-control video cameras.

Apple Computer Inc. can always draw a crowd, and its latest raft of video application announcements earned the notice of many showgoers. At the companys booth, users packed Apples demo theater to get a look at the forthcoming Version 4 of Final Cut Pro, Apples video-editing package. During the demo, Apple showed its Soundtrack module, which offers thousands of ready-to-use musical loops that can be cycled and stretched to change their tempos without affecting the pitch of loops musical notes.

Some users, such as Jason Siles, an independent video editor from Boston, were unsure about creating their own musical scores out of such building blocks. "I like the interface. It seemed really intuitive, and Im curious about it," Siles said, "but Im not sure about doing my own music. Im an editor, not a musician. It would probably end up sounding like bad house music."

Apple also showed Final Cut Pro 4s new title generator, LiveType, which allows users to combine various preset styles of animated effects into an unlimited number of variations. LiveType uses a new kind of font, called LiveFonts, which include animated characters, such as flaming letters, for use with the title module.

"Im really excited about the new type features," siles said. "Titling in Final Cut was really kind of crappy before—it really couldnt do very interesting stuff—and so I do my titles in other programs, After Effects, and the like. It will be great to actually have some decent tools for titles right in Final Cut, and the animated type is cool. Im already imagining there will be a zillion people coming out with their own flaming-banana fonts."

Elsewhere on the title-generator beat, Zaxwerks showed Invigorator Pro Animator, a new $895 3D animation system for generating broadcast- and film-quality motion graphics based on 2D vector artwork. The software converts any art saved in Adobe Illustrator format into elaborate beveled 3D versions, and automatically generates 3D animations in many preset, customizable styles. Users can choose to render animations with Invigorator Pro Animators built-in renderer or export animations to popular 3D animation packages, such as Maya, 3DS Max, SoftImage or LightWave. The Mac OS X version will ship in May, with the Windows edition shipping in Q3.

Ulead introduced the Studio Quartet video suite, which includes image editing, graphics creation, 3D text and object animation, and real-time video editing that features rotoscoping and other CG effects. Studio Quartet is expected to ship June 1 for $895, with discounts for early purchases. The suite includes PhotoImpact 8, an image editor; COOL 3D Studio, which lets users animate 3D text and object within videos; MediaStudio Pro 7, a video editor with software-only, real-time, preview and output; and DVD Workshop AC3, a DVD authoring system.